The proposal of the moderator, Robert Sullivan is for the speakers to talk about how to alleviate the effects of disasters, and how to manage them. The UN places a great interest in and gives value to already existing projects. In representation of Nesreen Barwari, minister of Public Works in Iraq, absent from the presentation, a communiqué was read in which were stressed efforts to manage that take place in a context of generalized violence and, for all practical purposes, a total collapse of services. In such a context efforts to intervene in reconstruction are directed more toward the social aspect of creating confidence in the future and not toward material results. Management works toward a recuperation of the private sector, conscious of the difficulties involved in improving things without the economic reactivation. Housing and water, along with the creation of infrastructures are the most important projects that will provide the emergence of community sustainability. These must be administered by the actors who participate in the necessarily decentralized governmental decisions. These decisions must go through the communities themselves and be transparent so that the community is capable of participating.
“It is democracy, understood as respect for human rights, including respect for the voice of women, and a lack of oppression, along with the participation of private contractors together with the UN which will allow complex and complicated projects to achieve sustainable development.” Helena Molin Valdez recapped the conclusions which emerged in the debates of last Monday. The principles and directives for improving, in a sustainable manner, human settlements pass directly through the answer to the question; what is sustainable? She proposed the establishment of strategies capable of managing risk and vulnerability. This implies being effective and demanding responsibilities through a multisectorial focus and participation from all sectors, including those that cannot be obtained without a political compromise. “Why don’t programs to reduce poverty include a reduction in the risk which comes from catastrophes and natural disasters?” The systematic integration of the diverse groups that form civil society is unavoidable. They are the ones that will collaborate and help make decisions under a systematic ethical responsibility that will be focused principally on avoiding corruption in the construction industry. In this way underlying risk factors will be reduced.
“One must focus on the principles that provide sustainable relief, immediate relief, short and long term, accompanied by a sustainable recovery.” The proposal ends with the following recipe: political commitment from a solid institutional base, development of plans with the effective use of available resources, association or partnering, taking into account the context – urban or local, and strategizing the creation, application and development of all that will permit the reduction of risks.
“In what ways can we mitigate the suffering of the human state?” Mihir Batt opened his presentation with this question. The cities as motors of development do not have the capacity, not even with consistent data, to evaluate the level of security that exists. The risk of floods, earthquakes, terrorism, or wars, is information they do possess, but it is in the hands of the politicians and the civil society is distant from it. What is needed is a precise evaluation of the risks and disasters for civil society, which up to now has not taken place. In the end, once evaluated the information moves in a circuit, which goes directly to state authorities. Who has responsibilities for the management? The cities don’t decide. It is necessary to create a model that studies exceptional financing together with a fund for recuperation from multilateral banks. The cities have a reactive focus that responds to catastrophes in an immediate manner, obliged to do so by the absence or fragmentation of institutional aid. Insurance and costs for the replacement of infrastructures is taken together with investment plans that provide relief on an urban level. All of this must be confronted together. “Risk is also an opportunity to take advantage of.”
“A regulatory and specific framework that delimits responsibilities is necessary to make advancements in the management of disasters,” says Brock Carlton. And must be accompanied by transparency regarding responsibilities and adequate structures. Property rights must be established along with a clear idea of this concept – property – in relation to housing. Special mention is made of this given the habitual exodus that takes place under a multitude of circumstances. It is necessary to decentralize responsibilities as much as resources. This means that the government gives competence to the local communities and that these competencies are broad. Management on the local level provides a high level of citizen confidence. It is also necessary that the society is educated regarding the fact that services have costs and they must be paid for. The final idea is related to “the necessity to create networks, including those that cross borders, capable of maintaining a permanent dialogue even in conflict zones.”
The final participant was Dennis McNamara as a representative of the humanitarian arm of the United Nations. We do not have a mechanism to confront the 13 million displaced persons who are a product of conflicts. How do we define the Sudan, the Congo, Uganda, Liberia, and Colombia? They are populations in which the absence of housing stands out. They are the poor among the poor. “Adequate housing is a fundamental human right and this is reaffirmed by the fact that without it, the population is more exposed to disease. The lack of clarity over property is the root of a new conflict, which at the same time delays recuperation when the displaced return.” The line that exists between the concepts of aid and reconstruction is not precise. Both must be thought of as parallel processes projected into the long term and in a sustainable form. It is necessary to pay attention to what lies underneath and exists to resolve conflicts. We are blinded by the humanitarian aid we provide. These are as much rural themes as urban. The rural zones can alleviate existing overpopulation. It is necessary to confront problems in their context and not in an isolated manner.